Maryland Man Found Dead in Home With Over 120 Snakes Killed by ‘Envenomation’

by Lauren Boisvert
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Back in January, Maryland authorities found a man named David Riston dead in his home with over 120 snakes, many of which were venomous or illegal. Reptile experts removed the snakes from the home, but it was speculated then that the snakes were not responsible for his death. Now, Riston’s autopsy has been conducted, and new information leads medical examiners to believe he died of envenomation caused by a snake bite.

The state medical examiner ruled Riston’s death an accident. Riston seemed to be an expert at snake care, having kept his reptiles in meticulous conditions with plenty of food. Although, none of his neighbors seemed to know that he was keeping 124 snakes in his home.

According to a spokesperson for Charles County, the snakes included rattlesnakes, cobras, black mambas, and a 14-foot-long Burmese python. Cobras and rattlesnakes are highly venomous, we know this. Additionally, black mambas are considered the world’s deadliest snake. They are lethally venomous, nervous, and highly aggressive when threatened. Although it was not stated if Riston had any vipers, the Gaboon viper is also one of the world’s deadliest snakes.

Riston’s autopsy was performed in Baltimore and was ruled as accidental snake envenomation. The signs of snake envenomation are as follows, per the CDC: puncture wounds; redness, swelling, bruising, bleeding, or blistering at the site; severe pain and tenderness; nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea; labored breathing; rapid heart rate, weak pulse, low blood pressure; disturbed vision; metallic, mint, or rubber taste in the mouth; increased salivation and sweating; numbness or tingling around face or limbs; and muscle twitching.

Maryland Man Found Dead in January, Coroner Rules Death ‘Accidental Envenomation’ Due to Snakes

When Maryland animal control officials removed the snakes from the dead man’s home, they claimed they had never seen anything like it. Spokesperson Jennifer Harris explained, “Our chief animal control officer said in his more than 30 years of experience, he had not encountered this kind of thing before.”

It is an interesting situation; ideally, people should not keep highly deadly and venomous snakes as pets. They pose risks to those keeping them, as well as to friends, family, first responders, and anyone who would enter that home. There’s really no such thing as an escape-proof cage, says the publication Tallahassee. Additionally, a lot of snake owners release their snakes into the wild once they grow too big or the owner bores of them. This is highly irresponsible behavior for a pet owner, no matter if you have a dog or an exotic reptile.

In Florida, especially, there’s a problem with people releasing their snakes. A lot of people who have ball or Burmese pythons end up unleashing them on the environment when they get too big. Specifically, there’s a python crisis in the Everglades. There’s no natural predator for them there, so their population goes unchecked. Mammal populations in the Everglades have declined about 99% since the early 90s. The pythons established a breeding population, and seem firmly rooted in the swamps and marshes of South Florida.

Outsider.com